March 25, 2021

University and college workplaces give rise to many of the same disputes found in other workplaces, but the resolution of such disputes is influenced by the status of universities and colleges as bastions of “academic freedom,” arbiters of students’ futures, and sites at which the ideas and sensibilities of new generations collide with tradition. In this session, experienced counsel will discuss important recent cases from this unique milieu. Final selection of issues to be discussed will be made closer to the date of the webinar to ensure currency, but topics to be addressed include the following:

  • Have the standards at universities and colleges changed when it comes to determining what constitutes personal harassment and what type of discipline is appropriate for such conduct? What role, if any, does academic freedom play in determining whether faculty exchanges have crossed the line into harassment or bullying?
  • In the wake of #MeToo, how are adjudicators handling student accusations of sexual harassment made against faculty? How can post-secondary employers support students who complain of sexual harassment while also mitigating employer liability?
  • Does discipline for inconsistent grading violate academic freedom? Is an instructor’s failure to meet deadlines for grades stipulated in an academic calendar grounds for discipline?
  • What weight can employers give to student evaluations in determining whether they should continue to employ certain instructors or in making promotion or tenure decisions?
  • What principles should guide post-secondary employers in calculating relevant professional experience when determining a faculty member’s starting salary? Should work experience gained during periods of full-time study count? What about volunteer work?
  • What is the effect of employing an instructor or other worker under a series of successive fixed-term contracts for many years? Is such employment continuous for the purpose of assessing statutory entitlements, such as entitlement to vacation time?
  • How have arbitrators ruled on contract instructors’ claims for compensation for preparation time? Are term-appointed instructors entitled to be compensated for course-preparation work that they must complete prior to their contract start dates? What kinds of changes to courses constitute “major revisions” entitling instructors to more preparation time?